Analysis: Saudi Arabia Cooking Up Strategic Move Against Russia

One can only assume, since there is no backlash from the United States or NATO in reaction to this buildup, it’s being encouraged behind the scenes by the Obama administration.


Saudi-Turkish threat to invade Syria points to the gap between the desire for a cease-fire agreement and reality. Judging by Russia’s conduct so far, Riyadh and Ankara might want to reexamine what could be a dangerous gamble.

The news from Munich on Friday that a cease-fire would be declared in Syria within a week was still fresh when Saudi Arabia announced its own initiative: It would send warplanes to Turkey and special ground forces to fight in Syria against the Islamic State organization. The Saudi-Turkish proposal demonstrated just how great the gap is between hopes for an end to the fighting and the situation on the ground.

Saudi Arabia – whose foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, reiterated the kingdom’s position that Syrian President Bashar Assad cannot remain in office – is tightening its strategic relationship with Turkey. The latter has become a critical member of the Sunni Muslim coalition created by Saudi Arabia. This coalition has a weighty representation in Syria, in the form of major rebel militias such as the Free Syrian Army, that continue to fight the Syrian regime.

While no one seems particularly interested in the very iffy cease-fire, the same cannot be said about the military involvement of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states in Syria.

Here, too, the details are still unknown factors: how many planes the Saudis will station at Turkey’s Incirlik air base; how many special forces will be sent, to which fronts and with what goals. U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who was quick to welcome the Saudi announcement, explained that the kingdom’s forces will act only in coordination with the United States, and that their mission was to fight ISIS, especially in the northeastern Syrian city of Raqqa.

Saudi officials said they will serve as auxiliary and training forces for the local militias, while Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu extended the scope of cooperation, saying Saturday that his country and Saudi Arabia may launch ground operations in Syria.

Proceed with caution

But even assuming that the Kurds will not be partners – in contrast to the United States, which has clasped these Kurdish militias to its military bosom – the main problem with such a ground operation is the expected confrontation with the Syrian army and the prospect of military friction with Russian and Iranian forces.

Saudi Arabia may be thinking that Russia still wants to maintain ties with it, as part of efforts to expand its influence in the region at the expense of the United States, and will adopt the Saudi position on Assad. (Russia’s relations with Turkey turned hostile after Turkish forces downed a Russian warplane last November.)

On the other hand, in light of Russia’s brutal behavior and rejection of all international pressure, Saudi intervention in a war without any guaranteed military or diplomatic gains for the kingdom – and without a clear exit strategy – may be a dangerous gamble.

Full article: Analysis: Saudi Arabia Cooking Up Strategic Move Against Russia (Haaretz)

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